Long-Lasting Consequences of Neonatal Maternal Separation on Social Behaviors in Ovariectomized Female Mice


Maternal separation (MS) stress is known to induce long-lasting alterations in emotional and anxiety-related behaviors, but effects on social behaviors are not well defined. The present study examined MS effects on female social behaviors in the social investigation (SIT) and social preference (SPT) tests, in addition to non-social behaviors in the open-field (OFT) and light-dark transition (LDT) tests in C57BL/6J mice. All females were tested as ovariectomized to eliminate confounding effects of endogenous estrogen during behavioral testing. Daily MS (3 hr) from postnatal day 1 to 14 did not affect anxiety levels in LDT, but were elevated in OFT with modified behavioral responses to the novel environment. Furthermore, MS altered social investigative behaviors and preference patterns toward unfamiliar stimulus mice in SIT and short- and long-term SPT paradigms. In SIT, MS reduced social investigation duration and increased number of stretched approaches towards both female and male unfamiliar stimulus mice, suggesting increased social anxiety levels in MS females. Similarly, MS heightened levels of social anxiety during short-term SPT but no MS effect on social preference was found. On the other hand, MS females displayed a distinctive preference for female stimuli, unlike control females, when tested for long-term SPT over a prolonged period of 5 days. Evaluation of FosB expression in the paraventricular nucleus, medial and central amygdala following stimulus exposure demonstrated greater number of FosB immunopositive cells in all three brain regions in MS females compared to control females. These results suggest that MS females might differ in neuroendocrine responses toward unfamiliar female and male opponents, which may be associated with modifications in social behaviors found in the present study. Taken together, this study provides new evidence that early life stress modifies female social behaviors by highlighting alterations in behavioral responses to situations involving social as well as non-social novelty

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oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:3296763Last time updated on 7/8/2012View original full text link

This paper was published in PubMed Central.

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